I recently got my hands on Knockout City, a recently announced EA title developed by Velan Studios. It’s a cartoon-like, yet competitive dodgeball multiplayer game – as if Fortnite’s Tilted Towers were expanding into a bustling metropolis, and its legions of teenage flossers took to the streets to be a little naughty before noon.
It’s pretty easy to understand, because it’s a big game with the soup up dodgeball – but with a few twists. And as much as I enjoyed throwing and catching balls, there was one aspect of Knockout City I was attracted to more than anyone else: about to become the ball.
Apparently there is nothing better to do, young people roam Knockout City in dodgeball gangs of three or four, and throw balls at each other. It̵
I asked Karthik Bala, founder and CEO of Valen Studios, why they chose dodgeball in the first place. “Everyone knows dodgeball, and it’s just something intuitive, that you only understand when it comes to picking up a ball, and throwing and catching,” he said. “And it was like, can we do something about it?”
I would say they did. In many ways, Knockout City does not need a story running in the background, as it is most important if it can deliver a good time. I think it does.
“Velan has used some magic here by translating the simple act of throwing and catching into a game and giving it weight and weight.”
Over a handful of industry maps, you and your teammates can ball against the enemy, hoping you will tag them and earn points for your team. There is an expected range of modes: classic team death match, one where you collect diamonds after eliminating netting, and another where you can only use your teammates as a ball (my clear favorite). Just like the groundbreaking movie Dodgeball, and the real life game about dodgeball (which the film clearly inspired), dodge, dive, dive, dive and dodge you to victory.
I discovered that one of the most satisfying moves does not begin with a D, but a C, because you can catch balls thrown at you. In real life, an opponent eliminates and brings one of yours back to the game, but it has been adapted well for a video game. With the right timing, you can throw a caught ball back at your enemy with increased force. It’s less the feeling of overcoming your opponent that makes me get revved, and more the feeling of, dampening them to the ball of others. Velan has used some magic here by translating the simple act of throwing and catching into a video game and giving it a real sense of lift and weight.
I must also give a shout to the false cast. It’s another super easy action, but I got a glimpse of evil joy when I faked a fling and saw my opponent instinctively clap the air in panic and tried to catch a ball that did not come. There are other tricks as well, like the ability to curve balls like mowers, or make an up-and-over flap to get around obstacles.
Knockout City is separated from competing shooters, where you point at crosses and click people to death. Accuracy and reliance on lightning-fast fast reaction speeds can put people out of these games, but the focus here is not at all precision.
You automatically lock on to opponents as you prepare for a fling, and I liked that matches were not decided by which players could click on pixelated heads faster than anyone else. I had to think more about where I was positioned, where my teammates were, and how I should throw the ball, above all else.
The kind of ball I also picked up. One was a ticking time bomb, which added an element of hot potato to the matches. You would see people throwing it back and forth in a desperate bid not to be shaken. I was most fond of the Moon ball, which permeated me with a gravitational effect every time I jumped in the air. This can hover over my enemies and frame juicy goals for my team.
But really, my favorite ball type … was myself. In Knockout City, you can curl up into a ball and become a hand-powered meatball. Press and hold Alt, and you will scroll around the map like a droideka hunting for Obi-Wan, or a Maltese who has escaped the pack. A teammate can then scoop you up and throw you at unsuspecting enemies.
The real fun lies in your teammates’ ability to transform you from a ball, to the dodgeball equivalent of a mortar strike. They can charge you until you glow, and then throw yourself into the air – at which point the controls are handed over to you, as you steer your explosive self against some evil unsuspecting bastards downstairs.
I think I thought it was so much fun because it felt cunning every single time, as if I had scanned the fine print of the dodgeball rulebook before a gold medal match and discovered a loophole that changed the game. “Ah, but there’s nothing here that says I can ‘t score a point by turning myself into a ball is it? “, I said to the judge, continuing to jump into the arms of my closest ally under the tiebreaker:” Chuck me, Danny. DOES!”.
It is also the details that if teammates pass you between each other, you will reach this bomb state even faster. I asked Bala if anything surprised him during the development, and he quoted this strategy as something no one on the team saw coming, even though they had put it in the system.
“It was this moment of development where we had three players on a team. Player one rolled up in the arms of player two, and player two sent that teammate to the third player. And they were already in the ultimate bomb state, immediately, “he said.” And we were, what the hell happened, is this a mistake ?! And in fact, it was not a bug at all … we did not program it, it just happened, because that’s what it’s supposed to do as a system. “
Knockout City also surprised me, as I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Conceptually, it sounds silly. But I think the fun I had mimicking that of dodgeball in real life, in a way. I can see myself enjoying this in short bursts, you see? The strange session here and there to relax in the evening. Maybe as a short cartoon deadline from my one true love, Call Of Duty: Warzone. That may ultimately be the problem: What makes Knockout City different is what can prevent it from finding an audience in a market with predominantly shooters. Only time will tell whether the war boys are ready to embrace balls.